Unconscious Segregation

I am on the MARTA in Atlanta. I have a suitcase and a backpack, and when I got on, the train was mostly full and there were people standing. I walked past them and sat in an empty seat on the isle, next to a well dressed white guy about my age. He looked safe, and in my mind I was leaving the two empty seats in front of us open for someone else instead of taking both with myself and my stuff. As the train departed, no one sat there.

At the next stop, the guy next to me got up and left the train. A good-looking black guy looked at me and I wondered what he was thinking. Suddenly I noticed that there were no other white people in my line of sight. I turned around and there were no other white people on the train at all, except one man sitting on the other side of the isle from me.

I sat next to the only two white people on the train. I hadn’t even realized it.

Then I started wondering: did I make that decision subconsciously, or was it a legitimate coincidence? I certainly didn’t mean to sit next to the only white people. If I had realized it, I would have chosen NOT to sit next to the only white people. I couldn’t even believe it.

Some of my very favorite, closest friends are African or of African descent, and I know what my decision looked like, what it said to the others on the train. I confirmed a stereotype in a small, subtle way… that white people are afraid of or do not like black people.

Whether or not this stereotype is often true is not the point. There is plenty of evidence to suggest it. Hanging out with close African American friends when I lived in Atlanta years ago I learned this first-hand. I want to be someone who is intentional about changing the stereotype, and here I am confirming it in my own little way. I am neither the first nor the only one to notice my choice of seat.

Although I didn’t make my seating choice intentionally, I’m sorry I made the choice I did at all. If given the same opportunity again, I plan to choose a different seat. And I pray that the next white person who gets on a train with the same passengers will make a different choice as well.

History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people. –Martin Luther King, Jr.

Praise God that since Martin Luther King, Jr. said those words transition has continued to occur. But it is not done yet. Lord let me be a continuing part of the solution, not a perpetrator of the problem — even through ignorance or being oblivious.

Musalaha Palestinian/Israeli Summer Camp Report

“I love this camp,” a pre-teen girl told me as we played in the pool, “I love everything it stands for and everything it’s about, and it’s so fun!”

This attitude was echoed throughout Musalaha’s Israeli-Palestinian summer camp by the seventy Palestinian and Israeli believing children and both local and foreign leaders.
For me, after six months in the Land, this camp gave me real hope like nothing else I have experienced. There was hope in the Bible studies, in the competitions, in the craziness and laughter, and in the worship. There was hope as the children were creative with their crafts and reckless in their play. There was hope as they were just being girls and boys – having fun, making friends, getting a break from the pressures of their everyday environment.
The fifty leaders arrived on Saturday afternoon to begin a run-through of the camp activities. We were quite a mix – the Musalaha leadership team, Israeli and Palestinian young teens who were junior counselors, Palestinian and Israeli college-aged counselors, and an American team visiting the country to serve us and the children. Over the course of the two days of preparation we got to know each other, and when the children arrived on Monday, we were ready!
When they arrived, many of the children found friends they had met at last year’s camp. A group of two Palestinian and three Israeli girls negotiated to be in the same room. Upon receiving permission, they pulled five bunks together to make one huge bed where they could sleep together.
During my time here, I’ve gotten pretty good at identifying who is on which side – quickly profiling everyone I meet. It’s usually unconscious, automatic, and often seems necessary. When I get on a bus, I need to remember what kind of bus it is so I know if I should greet and thank the driver in Hebrew or Arabic. When I see a group, I notice which side they are from. When I talk to people, I want to know where their sympathies lie so I don’t say something terribly offensive.
At the camp I realized that I wasn’t noticing who is Israeli and who is Palestinian. I saw my brothers and sisters from both sides of the conflict demonstrate a love of Christ and each other above their love of sticking with their side. Leaders cared for kids, loving and instructing them regardless of where they are from. We were all there as believers in Jesus, and as should more often be the case, during camp no other identity really mattered.
One day after craft time, a Palestinian boy from the West Bank proudly pulled me aside to show me his pencil case. On it, he had painted an Israeli flag. I am not sure how his parents will feel about it, but it showed me how much more simple this situation is for the children. He loved his new friends and leaders and therefore had fond feelings about the place they are from.
As my coworker Tamara and I reflected on the camp, she said, “Innocence breaks down all this hatred that we have around us. You love the good things that you see in the other side. Like Jesus said, we should be little children.”
The reality is that the conflict will probably get harder for these dear young ones as they get older. They will be pulled and they will likely have experiences that will confirm what their communities teach about the other. The conflict is real and they will likely come face to face with it before long.
But that thought is followed by remembering what I saw in the young adults who helped to lead the camp, many of whom have been raised as a part of Musalaha. They are pulled, but they do not forget their friends. For them, the “enemy” will never be faceless, inhuman, or distant. For them, the situation will never be easy or black and white. That is good. With open eyes they can help bring change. They are the hope.

He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” -Matthew 18:1-3

See previous post and my Picasa album for pictures from the camp. See videos from camp on Musalaha’s YouTube channel I’ll also put a few here over the next few posts.
Coventry 2

Coventry 2

I thought I’d share the report I did on the Coventry Conference and some pictures from the professional photographer who joined us. It really was a great time. I am hoping we’ll do a conference in the States sometime before too long!

The beautiful Coventry Cathedral was a wonderful location for the conference

On May 20th and 21st participants from the UK, other European countries, and America gathered in the iconic Coventry Cathedral to join Musalaha for our first international Reconciliation conference.

Musalaha was invited by Christian leaders in the UK to share first-hand experiences and lessons learned in reconciliation with the wider body of Christ – whose members have increasingly felt the need to choose sides as they consider the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The powerful story of the Coventry Cathedral was meaningful to our participants as they heard testimonies of reconciliation in the place dedicated to forgiveness since its devastation during a war-time attack in 1940 and rebuilt as a testimony of faith and hope.

Salim Munayer and Evan Thomas
Speakers included Palestinian and Israeli leaders such as Salim Munayer and Evan Thomas as well as other leaders. We also worshipped in Hebrew, Arabic and English and heard powerful testimonies, including some young Nigerian leaders in reconciliation.

Participants were very encouraged by testimonies and teachings from Musalaha’s ministry partners. We were joined by Cathy Nobles and students from YWAM’s School of Reconciliation and Justice, Tanas Alqassis and Rev. Joseph Steinberg from the Church Mission Society, Rev. Gilbert Lammerts van Bueren from Near East Ministry and representatives from the Baptist Mission Society.

We were excited to have approximately 150 participants representing a wide variety of churches, organizations, and communities.

Insights following the conference made one thing clear: the message of reconciliation is not only relevant for those of us living in areas of conflict. It is the call of God for all believers.

Here are some quotes from participants:
The variety of speakers, insights, demonstration of faith in action! Very exciting ministry that challenges everyone’s thinking.

I realize now that as a Christian I am involved… I should be a peacemaker.

The quality of the speakers was absolutely first class!

The respect that the team shows each other also witnesses to the power of your message. Insightful.
Great Britain is in need of this message, especially within the church.

The conference was everything I had hoped it would or could be. I feel better equipped with all the excellent teaching and sharing… to take Jesus’ way of the cross through the middle, without being swayed by the rhetoric or fears of either side in the Body of Christ in the UK.

All of us have been inspired by the teaching and especially by the high quality of testimonies and the way Salim Munayer and Evan Thomas have answered questions: sincere and with a sense of humor. It was not easy to keep out of politics and at the same time remain relevant to the situation which you as Israeli’s and Palestinians have to face. For those of us living in the west, it was humbling to witness how you are forced to identify with Christ more fully because of the conflict. A true encouragement to all of us to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Jesus.

For more information, please visit www.coventryconference.wordpress.com. Here are some more pictures of the event:
Thank you so much for your prayers for the conference. We felt the presence of God and are thanking Him for a wonderful time.


Tamara and I walked through the checkpoint later than usual recently, at the same time as the evening call to prayer.

As we walked through the area between the gates, a man faced Mecca. Others ran to join him and they bowed, perfectly aligned and moving in sync, prostrating in prayer. I was struck by the beauty of the togetherness of it — likely men who do not know each other joined in their common faith and brought together in a ritual demonstration of submission to God.

As I watched them, humble in posture and bold in declaration of their faith in the middle of the checkpoint, I was a little bit jealous. How often do I spontaneously see a brother or sister and pray with them, especially in public? In fact, how many brothers and sisters do I walk by without ever knowing we have the most important thing in common?

In my church tradition, we seem to equate ritual with perfunctory behavior — assuming that people are forced into the effort and are going through meaningless motions.

We will never be saved through ritual behavior. But I don’t think our assumption is true.



Last week I had the opportunity to go to the UK for a conference we (at Musalaha) organized. The conference was to share about what God is doing in reconciliation here in the holy land, and elsewhere in the world. I hope someday we can do a similar conference in the States!

Here are a few pictures:

Me with my friend and coworker, Ronit, in the beautiful Coventry Cathedral, which we called  home for three days.
The crowd.
With Diana and Ronit, two Messianic Jewish Israelis who shared their testimonies at the conference. It was fun to have the English and Middle Eastern worlds I know collide!
Youth Desert Encounter

Youth Desert Encounter

During the week before Easter, I had the opportunity to go on one of Musalaha’s Youth Desert Encounters. Israeli Messianic Jews and Palestinian Christian youth go into the desert for several days for an experience they will likely never forget. Here are some pictures from the journey:

The men proudly joined forces to move a very heavy table.

The Israeli girls talked on one side of the camp…

As the Palestinian girls hung out at the table with Judy. It made it difficult that several of them didn’t speak much English.

Our hike ended right near the Red Sea, and we had the opportunity to visit Eilat briefly. 

At the camp in the desert, a scenic location for our meetings.

I love camels.

An Israeli girl and one of the Palestinian guys. One of Musalaha’s ways of encouraging relationship-building is to put the kids together in uncomfortable situations, so they learn to work together:-). This is fun AND uncomfortable!

I finally rode a camel. So much fun!

I admit, the scenery made me feel a little bit like I was in a movie.

Everyone hanging out in the desert.

By the end of the trip the kids had built some good friendships. Here is a Palestinian girl with two of the Israelis.

I loved seeing the kids get to know each other during the trip, and am hopeful that these experiences will influence their perspectives for years to come.